Earlier this week I was in Washington DC advocating for the National Endowment for the Arts. I also spent a day in the Russell Senate Office Building helping curator Janet Van Fleet install The Art of Action exhibition in the Russell Rotunda.
Later that same evening I listened to Mayor Joseph Riley of Charleston, SC exhort 517 arts advocates and their colleagues (about 1000 total) to create great, livable cities by investing in infrastructure that fits the character, history, and culture of the neighborhoods.
The following morning, we all headed back to the Hill to attend Sen. Leahy's traditional Tuesday coffee hour and attend the "opening" of the exhibit and then go on to spend some time with Sen. Sanders's and Rep. Welch's staff before heading back to the airport and home.
Let me just say one thing about this brief trip. We have, without question, the best Congressional delegation in the country. Granted, I tend to be a one-track pony where legislative issues are concerned, but I see again and again people from other states trudging from one office to another, urging their elected representatives, despite their often terrible voting record on the arts, to expand our country's tiny investments in the arts and culture. By contrast, I and my Vermont colleagues look forward with joy to meeting with our delegation to thank them for everything they do, year in and year out.
Are we lucky? Perhaps. I think our representatives in Washington actually DO represent the body politic in Vermont. Many of our towns have thriving arts centers; artists of all stripes and colors live throughout the length and breadth of our state. Vermonters have started to accept a variety of lifestyles; welcoming outsiders from overseas as well as those from other states. Our tourism infrastructure is dependent to a large degree on the health of our cultural sectors, and these, in turn are nurtured by the artists and creative entrepreneurs that are at their core.
It is an ecosystem that our US Congressional delegation completely understands and it's why, year after year, American's for the Arts' Congressional "Arts Report Card" exhibits As and A-pluses across the board. It's also partly why the National Endowment for the Arts's budget has increased significantly in the past three years, usually over the President's own recommendation.
So here is what I need everyone reading this to do. The next time you attend a program in your local town hall theater, visit a gallery, experience a jazz or chamber festival, or in any tangible way take advantage of Vermont's large and varied cultural offerings, drop a line to Senators Leahy and Sanders and Congressman Welch and thank them for their efforts.
They deserve it.